1. That was more like it. After a string of tough games, the Boston Celtics got back on the blowout train by demolishing the Washington Wizards in the second half. After dropping 70 points in the first half, Boston scored 74 in the second half to cruise to the win.
The Celtics outscored the Wizards 74-43 after the break. Washington couldn’t find daylight to score and they had no chance of slowing down Boston’s offense.
With three tough ones remaining, all on the road, the Celtics needed this one. And they left the home fans with a nice parting gift from the regular season. And as Grant Williams said: they’ll see the fans again soon in the playoffs.
2. Jaylen Brown put together another big scoring night. He finished with 32 points and only played briefly in the fourth quarter. Brown got off to another quick start, with 13 points in the first quarter. This was the first of three consecutive three-pointers. Brown does a nice job of moving up to the open space and Marcus Smart makes a perfect pass here:
If you’ve played basketball, you know when the other team has no one who can stay in front of you. Brown uses a slight little shoulder fake here to split the defense for the big dunk:
Brown also had five assists. There’s nothing fancy about this pass, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity. Brown sees Daniel Theis has the smaller defender sealed off. Easy money:
When Brown is really feeling good, he uses his dribble to set up his moves. It’s a rapid-fire staccato of bounces resulting in the swish of the net:
3. With Rob Williams out, Al Horford is being asked to do more. He’s still carrying his typically big defensive load, but Boston is using him even more as a facilitator of offense. Horford and Williams had developed great chemistry. That’s coming along with Daniel Theis too, as this is a nice big-to-big drive-and-dish:
Tough catch by Horford, but he knows where he wants to go as soon as he has it. On-time pass to Grant Williams for the triple here:
Horford is often at his best when he rips and runs off the boards. This is a perfect pass to Jaylen Brown. Another fun part? Look at Brown, Theis and Marcus Smart all pointing to Horford for delivering such a gorgeous assist:
4. Jayson Tatum didn’t have to do much scoring, but still came up with 22 points in 29 minutes. Where he stood out was as a facilitator. Tatum made some high-level reads in this game, starting early on. As he comes off the screen, Tatum has the attention of four defenders. Even the baseline defender is looking at him, which opens the window for Tatum to find Grant Williams in his corner office:
Tatum’s patience as a passer has come a long way too. This is good work to draw the defense, then let a little traffic clear before setting up Payton Pritchard for the triple:
If you look at the start of this clip, as Tatum dribbles into the screen, Brown is already pointing that he’s going to cut backdoor. The pass is put right where Brown needs it for the easy layup:
Tatum working in the post might be something we see more of in the playoffs. He does a nice job here of staying patient and using his escape dribble before finding Al Horford for the three:
5. All of that passing from Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum was part of a whopping 39 assists for the Celtics on the afternoon. Those three players, plus Marcus Smart combined for 24 of those helpers.
Even bigger? Those 39 dimes came against just seven turnovers. After a few games of sloppy ballhandling in a row, Boston cleaned things up. Ime Udoka said postgame, that’s the focus over this last week of the season: cleaning things up. As far as turnovers go, the Celtics are off to a good start.
6. Grant Williams talked about his recent shooting slump and said he just had to “keep shooting” and that he had faith he’d find the touch again. After going 4-of-5 from downtown on Sunday afternoon, Williams is back up to 41.8% on three-pointers.
This shot is a good example of Williams feeling confident and how much he has sped up his release. There’s no wasted motion here from catch to release:
7. One guy who has never lacked confidence in his shot is Payton Pritchard. Not only is Pritchard a good shooter, but he’s a good shooter with deep range. That matters for stretching out a defense and creating space. This one comes right off the catch from what older fans will remember as Dan Majerle range:
8. Pregame Ime Udoka said that he thinks Derrick White is finally starting to feel comfortable with the Celtics. On defense, Boston has asked him to be even more physical and aggressive, even if that means committing some fouls.
On offense, Udoka stressed it was just going to take a little time. White’s quick processing of what to do when he has the ball is huge for Boston’s scoring-game. This is a really good example of how White works the in-between game:
This is a shot that neither Kemba Walker nor Dennis Schroder could get to very often, because they didn’t have the size. White is nominally their replacement, and having this one in his arsenal is good for beating playoff defenses:
9. To put a capper on things, the Maine Celtics connection worked a little magic again:
You gotta love how the whole bench was up cheering that one.
Also, no highlights, but it’s worth noting that Aaron Nesmith went off in the fourth quarter. He scored 11 points, in part on 3-of-4 from behind the arc. That’s two strong games in a row when Nesmith has played. Maybe, just maybe, he can carve out a postseason role yet.
10. The Celtics get a couple of days off before hitting the road to wrap the regular season. The entire NBA is off on Monday, as the NCAA Tournament final takes centerstage. Boston will get in one more practice day, and then they head to Chicago and Milwaukee for a back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday.
That Bulls-Bucks set will decide a lot seeding-wise in the Eastern Conference. Win them both, and Boston is the two seed, with an outside shot at the one seed. Split them, and the season finale in Memphis on Sunday takes on some added importance.
Ideally, the Celtics will get to that final game and it will play out with a whole bunch of reserves on the floor. But maybe it’s a must-win for seeding purposes. As it stands now, the Celtics need one more win or one more loss by the Bulls and the Raptors to clinch at worst the four seed and homecourt advantage in the first round.
For now, Ime Udoka says the team isn’t focused on seeding. They are focused on how they are playing. Maybe some “seeding shenanigans” will pop up in the final week, but don’t expect that until Sunday. Until then, it’s business as usual for Boston.